Lineman (gridiron football)

A diagram of the linemen, with defensive linemen (in 4-3 formation) in red and offensive linemen in green.

In gridiron football, a lineman is a player who specializes in play at the line of scrimmage. The linemen of the team currently in possession of the ball are the offensive line, while linemen on the opposing team are the defensive line. A number of NFL rules specifically address restrictions and requirements for the offensive line, whose job is to help protect the quarterback from getting sacked for a loss, or worse, fumbling.[1] The defensive line is covered by the same rules that apply to all defensive players. Linemen are usually the largest players on the field in both height and weight, since their positions usually require less running and more strength than skill positions.

Offensive line

The offensive line consists of the center, who is responsible for snapping the ball into play, two guards who flank the center, and two offensive tackles who flank the guards. In addition, a full offensive line may also include a tight end outside one or both of the tackles.

The Packers line

An offensive lineman's motion during a play is often limited to just a few quick steps (typically from a three-point stance) to establish position, followed by a wrestling match similar to sumo.[2] Offensive linemen thus tend to be the largest players on the field, with excellent agility and balance but limited straight-line running speed.

On some running plays, an offensive lineman will pull by backing out of his initial position and running behind the other offensive linemen to engage a defensive player beyond the initial width of the offensive line; in modern games this duty usually falls to guards.

When an offensive lineman knocks a player down on a block, leaving the defensive player lying flat on his back, it is known as a pancake block.[3]

When an offensive line has an equal number of men on either side of the center, it is known as a balanced line.[4] The interior offensive line consists of the center and guards.[5]

Offensive linemen are not eligible to catch forward passes, and are not allowed to advance more than 2 yards past the line of scrimmage at the time a pass is thrown, whether they are engaged with a defensive player or not. However, ends (whether tight ends or wide receivers) are eligible to catch passes. One exception to this rule is whenever a tackle-eligible play is executed, but such a play must be announced by the referee beforehand.


On running plays, the primary job of the offensive line is to create space for the ball carrier to run, either by pushing all defensive players backwards past the line of scrimmage, or by pushing defensive players to the side to allow the ball carrier to run past them.


On passing plays, the offensive line is responsible for stopping defensive players from tackling the quarterback before he has thrown the ball. Stopping these players indefinitely is usually not possible, so the main objective of the offensive line is to slow them down, providing the quarterback with several seconds to identify an open receiver and throw the ball.

Steelers line
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espaƱol: Liniero
magyar: Linemen
Nederlands: Lineman